The world is full of things that don’t glow: cheetahs, elephants, stone buildings, and ferns, just to name a few. However, this shouldn’t deter you from living at least a semblance of a fulfilling life. It’s why we invented glow-in-the-dark bowling, glow-in-the-dark roller skating, and glow-in-the-dark mini-golf.
But, while most of us are content to live out the rest of our days with the occasional Friday night drinking beer and listening to Top 40 songs at these places of leisure, a few adventurers won’t be able to deny the growing hole in their heart. For some of us, the only place to satisfy our fascination with nighttime radiation will be found in the bountiful waters of the Caribbean.
What is Bioluminescence?
Bioluminescence is the production of light by a living organism. This is accomplished through a chemical reaction that takes place within the organism. Similarly to a glow stick, when two reactants mix, the organism is able to glow a part of their body.
While it may seem like the ability to glow is more cool than useful, there is a range of functions in nature for bioluminescence. One of the uses is to attract both prey and cute members of the opposite sex. Another use is to repel predators, who won’t go near this voodoo magic. Organisms also use bioluminescence to light up their surroundings. The Black Dragonfish, for example, produces a red glow, allowing it to see red-pigmented prey that is normally invisible in the deep ocean environment where red light has been filtered out by the water column.
You don’t have to dive into the water to see glowing creatures—fireflies, glow worms, even glowing fungi, can be found on land—but underwater is usually where all the coolest bioluminescent organisms hang out. Here’s a couple of bioluminescence expeditions in the Caribbean for you to check out.
Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica
The first stop on our luminous tour is a stunning spot called Luminous Lagoon, which is one of the highlights of Jamaica. And for good reason!
Stretching along the coast from the town of Falmouth, there is a massive swathe of small micro-organisms that emit light when disturbed. The result is a surreal blue luminous color in the water that looks out of this world.
Just take a look at the video below to see what I mean:
One of the best ways to see this natural phenomenon is to take a tour with Glistening Waters, which they do every night.
Night Diving in the Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman dive shop, Ocean Frontiers, gives adventurers a chance to experience the wonders of night-time diving with two special types of dives. On Mondays, Ocean Frontiers offers a dive known as the Critter Night Dive. This is where you’ll take a shallow reef dive to watch marine life that only goes on full display at night. See corals, fish, eels, and other sea creatures with all their electrifying colors up close.
The other dive, offered on Thursdays, is the Night Dive. In this type of dive, you’ll be equipped with an ultraviolet LED flashlight (blacklight) that will help you see the Grand Cayman’s East End Lagoon in a whole new light (pretty punny huh?). On your UV Night Dive, you’ll witness a vast universe of fluorescent life that seems other-worldly. But remember, while the fluorescent corals may remind you of the glow-in-the-dark mini-putt place back home, it’ll be a lot harder to make out with your date here.
Taking a Dip in Bioluminescent Bay, Puerto Rico
Also known as Mosquito Bay, the Bioluminescent Bay of Puerto Rico has become a highly sought-after destination for its unique bioluminescent microorganisms.
A steady food supply and insulation from ocean predators has created ideal conditions to support the bay’s large population of dinoflagellates. These microorganisms obtain energy from the sun during the day and emit a blue light in response to disturbances in the water at night. Limited groups of tourists are allowed to visit the bay each year to boat and kayak alongside the glowing microorganisms.
Best Time to Go
The darker it is outside the better the illumination from the water will be. It is generally best to go when the moon is not out. There is no specific time of year when you must go. Like a patient lover, bioluminescence will wait for you. It will depend on your particular preferences. For a general guide on when to visit the Caribbean, see this article.
Dr. Manhattan’s Cousin—While you won’t be able to assume bioluminescent powers onto yourself, you can still revel in a rare spectacle that few get to see.
Extra bragging points if you:
- take a picture of yourself covered in glowing dinoflagellates
- find the time to do a little shipwreck diving
- be sure to take a dip and create your own glow angel
$75 to go night diving in the Caymans. About $75-100 to go kayaking in Bio Bay, Puerto Rico.
- When taking pictures on your night dive, use a macro lens to capture all the features of bioluminescent lifeforms…oh and use a waterproof camera.
- Don’t rush on your night dive. Go slow and cover a smaller area in order to capture all the truly unique wildlife that goes on display only at night.
- If you don’t mind getting wet, visit bioluminescent bay when it’s raining—the disturbance in the water caused by falling raindrops will really enhance the experience.
- Learn more about the island of Vierques where Bioluminescent Bay is located.
- Learn more about strange animals that glow in the dark.
featured image source.